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A guide to "Capturing Motion" in low light situations

5 Min Portrait - Construction Site Candid Shoot

The 5 Min Portrait is one of the most watched segments on the site and I think thats because people love to sit back and watch a full photo shoot in action.

In this episode I join my friend Martin as he is taking down a wall at the future home of his bar called Steam Pub in Pennsylvania. My goal here was to show you a full on candid shoot opposed to setting every little detail up it was my job to capture what Martin would be doing.

This is my type of photo shoot, capturing candid photos of an interesting subject or location. What is interesting about how I shoot is I rarely know fully what it is I will be shooting when I show up. Sometimes I know what the situation or location looks like and other times I am seeing it for the first time when I show up. This does pose a challenge as you have to be able to adapt to every situation on the fly.

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As you watch the full photo shoot you may notice that some of the images early on are just bad, they missed, they missed focus and they missed proper exposure. Sometimes it takes a few minuts to get your settings to where you feel confortable with them. I know the first batch of images are not very good. There is motion blur because my shutter speed was to slow. My focus missed because the Nikon 24-70 2.8 seems to have an issue with focus which I am checking with Nikon about. All of this could add up to being very frustrated during a shoot and possibly ruin your mind set and the rest of the shoot.

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But I will say this, you can not let these issues for one effect the rest of the shoot and more importantly you can not let your subject know you are having them. The last thing you want to do is put a doubt in your subjects mind. A doubt in their mind means they wont be thinking about the task they are trying to complete which will lead to uneasy images.

In this case I fought through it. I knew I was missing my focus, I had to think what is the solution to correct this problem I am having and how can I do it quickly but without tipping off my subject. It comes down to breathing, staying calm and knowing your gear and settings. The first thing I wanted to tackle was how do I stop getting motion blur in my images. I studied my images and saw that my shutter speeds were to slow for the type of motion that I was trying to capture.

Now that I know what is causing the blur I have to get my settings right to freeze the action. To speed up my shutter I always have a few options. I can open up my aperture but shooting at 2.8 I have no more room to go. I could also bump my ISO which in turn will raise my shutter speeds or you could do a combination of the both. In this case it came down to raising my ISO which gave me the shutter speeds I was looking for.

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During a photo shoot there are so many variables. In this case I had to deal with the amount of light filling the space changing as the wall came down. The more the wall came down the more backlight started to play an issue with the window in the background. One issues you face when shooting with backlight is your light meter can be thrown off causing your settings to go out of wack. I was shooting in manual so the backlight would not interfere with my camera settings. Backlight can also be useful when you turn it into front light. What I mean by that is if you now use the really nice light to photograph the subject form the opposite angle you now can get some great images.

You are going to have to keep in mind that you are now introducing a lot more light into your scene which means you are gong to have to make some exposure changes. When you have more light you can drop your ISO, speed up your shutter speed or raise your apature to compensate. You can do all three or choose one setting to change to compensate.

During the shoot you saw me changing rotating lenses. I try not to stick with the same lens for to long as you can over do it. You don’t want to get stuck with a ton of images with the same lens as you entire shoot will end up looking the same. You may be asking how do you know when it is time to change lenses, for me it comes down to knowing that I got enough quality images and its time to try something else. You can always come back to that lens again but you want to make sure you cover as many angles as possible during a shoot. This is also another reason why I do not crop, I try to use as many lenses as I can and capture as many different angles as possible to give me the end results I am looking for.

Another thing you will notice during the photo shoot is that it is very rare for me to motor drive through my images. There were only two situations where I took three images in a row. Even though the D3S allows me to shoot 9 FPS I was only shooting one frame recomposing and than taking another. This is important for a few reasons. One it makes me capture the moment and feel the moment opposed to just shooting off a million pictures and hoping that I captured the one out of ten that is good. It also cuts back on filling cards and having to edit so many pictures. I can not stress how important it is to feel the moment and capture opposed to spraying and praying.

Click here to see the rest of the FULL RES images

During this shoot you also found me switching between continuos focus and single focus modes.(CLICK HERE for a full on article about what each focus mode does. the pass word is “focus modes”) Why would I have to switch from one mode to the other during a photo shoot? I use continus if the subject is going to be moving and I am not sure where they will end up. I switch to single when I know the subject is going to be in one location doing one task that I can lock my focus on and capture.

To wrap this up I have to say early on during this photo shoot I was not feeling the images I was getting. I did not shut down meaning I did not quit because I wasn’t getting good images, I fought through it and made the changes I needed to make on the fly to get great images. As the shoot went on I started to get the type of images that I was looking for, better angles, better settings and all around better results.

In the end I came out with out with what I think are some very killer images that I know the client will be very happy to have. I captured a moment for Martin that he will have and probably hang in his pub to remember all the hard work he put in. That is what its all about, its all about telling the story in images to leave a lasting impression on the world.